The World Wildlife Fund rejects the Salton Sea’s management plan

As Salton Sea faces ecological collapse, a plan to save it with ocean water is rejected

On a recent day, a group of young people sat in the center of a conference room in La Jolla, California. They had gathered to discuss what they hoped was a better future for the Salton Sea, a vast inland saltwater delta that drains into the Imperial Valley.

For decades, the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Mexico City had been engaged in a high-stakes battle over who would develop the Salton Sea, arguing over whether it could support the thousands of miles of border between the U.S. and Mexico; a battle that has been a central part of U.S.-Mexican disputes for over half a century.

The Salton Sea is a unique ecosystem: it is part of Mexico’s natural water system, and the water flows naturally in and out of the basin as rain and snow, without human intervention. In theory, the basin has a large surface area, but its waters are shallow, cold, and saline, and because it is a narrow channel of saltwater flowing into the sea, the Salton Sea is also one of the world’s largest bodies of salty water.

The Salton Sea has become increasingly important over the past twenty years, as it has absorbed more than half the amount of surface water the Sea of Cortez has absorbed since the 1970s. The basin holds about a tenth of the global freshwater supply. At the moment, the United States, Mexico, and Canada share the responsibility for developing and managing the Salton Sea. The environmental organizations that support the management plan for the Salton Sea have called it an ecological disaster, and they have fought to preserve it — often with considerable success. But now, in a blow to the organizations, the World Wildlife Fund’s Center on Law and Policy (CLP) has rejected the plan for the Salton Sea, with a group of conservationists arguing that the plan would create a new source of freshwater pollution, create a significant threat to wildlife, and be too costly to implement.

“We have an alternative plan,” says Salton Sea’s chief scientist, Dr. Robert K. Gilman. This plan calls for reestablishing a coastal ecosystem that, rather than flooding the Salton Sea, would capture its saline water and return it to the sea over time. Instead of treating a vast inland body of freshwater as an environmental disaster

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